Price: Appetizers $1.95 to $2.75. Soups $1.15 to $2.95.Entrees $2.95 to $12.50.
Hours: Tuesday through Friday 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Atmosphere: Friendly service in Japanese setting.
Reservations: Helpful during weekends.
Special Facilities: High chairs; no children's menu, but adult portions can be divided. No non-smoking area but hostess will try to accommodate. Curb at sidewalk a barrier to wheelchairs. Parking lot.
Credit Cards: Master Charge and Visa.
Despite its interior -- which is a cross between English Tudor and Oriental -- the atmosphere at the Genji Japanese Restaurant is definitely Japanese.
Each course is served on a Japanese plate suited to its size, purpose and appearance making each serving a charming picture. You have to ask for silverware, but learning to eat with chopsticks is half the fun.
Unlike Chinese and French cooking, which blend ingredients in a culminating marriage of flavors, the flavor of each ingredient remains distinct in Japanese cooking. We chose from a wide variety of items so we could explore as much as possible.
At the Genji, appetizers fit the description perfectly -- small attractive portions artfully arranged and garnished.
Yakitori ($1.95), grilled kabobs of chicken and green onion marinated in a teriyaki sauce, was "super terrific," according to my son. Our more adventuresome daughter ordered hiyaykao ($1.75). Our waitress kindly checked so our daughter would know what she was getting: chilled bean curd garnished with grated ginger and scallions, all dipped in soy sauce.
I tried itawasa ($2.50), slices of cold boiled fish loaf served with seaweed and a green horseradish sauce hot enough to bring tears to your eyes. Dipped in soy sauce, it was a rare combination of flavors and a delectable treat.
My husband ordered tako su ($2.75), sliced raw octopus garnished with cucumbers in a vinegarette dressing. He liked it so much that he begrudged sharing it with me, but the one nibble I got overcame my apprehension about eating anything raw, particularly this unfamiliar sea creature. It was delicate, light, slightly sweet and with no fishy taste.
The Genji has a varied menu with some foods that are cooked at the table. One of those is shabu shabu ($12.50), thin slices of raw beef and vegetables cooked in a mild broth and served with a soy-based dipping sauce. This and the sukiyaki ($12.50) are served as full dinners which include soup, Japanese salad and dessert. Other full dinners are sashimi (slice raw fish) and sushi (raw and cooked fish).
Special combination platters, at $8.95 and $9.95, offer a variety of Japanese cooking and come with soup and green tea.
We ordered platter B, and I started off with miso shiru for the soup. Served in a red lacquer bowl, the clear fish broth was garnished with a Japanese crouton that looked like a flower, a leaf of spinach and underneath tiny shrimp. My husband chose suimono, a hearty red broth of bean curd and scallions.
Our platter arrived with a large mound of American salad -- iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes and onions -- in the center. The salad was surrounded by deep fried soft shell crabs, marinated and brioled salmon, shrimp and vegetable tempura and beef teriyaki. An Italian dressing was served on the side for the salad.
The crab were excellent -- fresh, crisp on the outside and tender, juicy and succulent on the inside. The beef, too, was excellent, well-seasoned in a teriyaki sauce but not overwhelmed by it, and tender. And there was plenty of it.
The tempura was a disappointment, not in quality but in quantity. Although lightly battered and cooked just right, two medium shrimp, two slices of sweet potato and green pepper made a skimpy offering. The salmon was fresh and tasty but slightly dry from being overcooked.
My daughter chose chicken yakitoridon ($3.50), which was sprinkled with sesame seed and served over rice in a beautifully decorated porcelain bowl. The chicken and rice were tasty together. The chicken itself was tender and juicy, a true accomplishment when cooking with dry heat. At $3.50, this is the dish for the child with conservative tastes. For small children, it could be shared.
Tonkatsu ($5.95), ordered by my son, was the best entree of all. Bite-sized slices of pork had been mysteriously seasoned and deep fried so that the meat was tasty, juicy and tender on the inside but crunchy on the outside. A soy-based dipping sauce was perfect with the pork. Also on the plate was a large helping of American salad. The portion was ample and could easily be split by small children. Rice was served on the side.
The Japanese do not finish their meals with a dessert. For American tastes however, the Genji offers ice cream and fresh fruit (both $1.10) and mitsumane ($1.25). We shared an order of fruit and mitsumane. Our waitress, without our asking, brought us extra silverware so we could share. The fruit was two slices of honeydew melon, a delightful way to end a meal with no guilt over calories. The mitsumane resembles fruit cocktail, but is really a combination of oranges, cherries, gelatin cubes and small brown beans in a sugar syrup.
The Genji is not a place for a quick bite, but it is a great place for the family to learn about Japanese dining customs. Although there were no lags in service, we were there an hour and a half. The portions are generally small, so adults would do well to order more than one course. And the appetizers are too good to be passed up.
Our bill for four, including tip, was $46.